By ANDY GARDNER
Many agree that the quality of life in Massena has declined over the last decade or so, looking at a rise in violent crime and heroin rearing its head, but Massena’s top police official is hopeful that progressive action aimed at area youth can help turn things around.
Timothy J. Currier, who has headed the Massena Village Police for most of his 25 years in law enforcement, doesn’t think law enforcement alone can right the ship.
“It’s not a problem we can arrest our way out of,” Currier said in an interview. “We have to look at progressive ideas that can help prevent kids from becoming criminals in the first place.”
“I hear so much from people – ‘It’s tough being a parent today.’ It’s tough being a kid today … there’s all these temptations out there for young kids.”
Currier now is a driving force behind bringing a Boys and Girls Club to Massena, which he believes can help children away from trouble with the law.
“Kids get into trouble for three reasons: They lack positive peer influences, they lack positive adult influences, or they simply don’t have something to do,” according to Currier. “We know the Boys and Girls Club can solve all three of those problems, providing a safe environment where they can play, learn, and enjoy their lives.”
Currier believes education is a crucial factor in keeping youth out of handcuffs and credits the Massena school district with working towards that end. He cited the district’s 76 percent grad rate, which is above the state average of 68 percent.
Currier noted that those without high school diplomas are, statistically speaking, far more likely to do jail time at some point in their lives.
“If you don’t have a high school diploma, you are three-and-a-half times more likely to arrested and eight times more likely to go to jail,” Massena’s police chief said. “If you look at state prison populations in all 50 states, 68 percent do not have high school diplomas.”
He noted another of his reasons for backing the Boys and Girls Club – their alumni boast a 90 percent graduation rate.
Currier believes some of Massena’s problems are generational.
“In my 25 years in law enforcement in this community, we’re seeing the third generation of the same family getting into trouble with the law,” he said.
But despite all the negative forces at work, Currier said there are movements in the opposite direction.
“Massena Central is doing wonderful things … doing work with [children] through D.A.R.E., and safe and drug free school [programs].”
He gives credit to the school’s athletic program for not using a zero-tolerance policy.
“Zero-tolerance does not work,” Currier stated. “If you throw them off the team, that may be the only thing … to keep them straight. A progressive policy is much more effective.”
Currier said the local court system takes a similar progressive approach when youth get in trouble – a first or second-time offender is usually offered help to get them back on track.
He noted Suzanne Daye, a local physician, has been holding meetings of community leaders where they share ideas for positive solutions to local problems. She did not return a request for comment.
“There’s so many good things going on in this community and in the school district … it’s very refreshing,” according to Currier. “There’s nothing that’s bad about Massena that can’t be fixed with what’s good about Massena.”